Dealing with Publisher Rejection
First of all, sorry about the time away from posting any blogs, but New Austin isn’t going to clean itself up, now is it? With so many great games coming out recently, and with E3 just around the corner, I wanted to touch on a subject no doubt many of you that run smaller community sites have had to deal with lately – publisher rejection. You know the feeling. When you email over and over asking for review copies of the hottest upcoming games, only to be told that they’re all reserved for press. You’ve gotten that email. So let’s talk about what happens next.
More times than I can count, I’ve seen community sites posting passive-aggressive – or sometimes openly aggressive – remarks about how a publisher must not care about community because they didn’t send a review copy. Honestly, making these kind of remarks doesn’t do a thing for you. It makes you look petty in many ways, and speaks to a general lack of understanding about how the PR side of the industry works. If a publisher rejects your request for a review copy or event ticket, be sure to thank them for considering you (hey, they wrote back at least, right?) and ask them to please keep you in mind for future opportunities. And then? Don’t mention it again. These things happen for a ton of reasons, and complaining about it will only ensure that it happens to you more. I assure you, you’re never going to guilt a publisher into including you on their review copy list, so don’t even try. Don’t try to fire up your community to be angry at the publisher because you weren’t included, either. That’s an abuse of your community leadership power, as far as I’m concerned. Take your rejection professionally, with head held high, and remember that these type of perks shouldn’t be the keystone of your site.
Remember that You Are a Community
I see a lot of sites getting wrapped up in the “exclusives” and the reviews. If that’s your goal, that’s great, but it hardly makes you a community site. It makes you a blogger, really. Small press. And if you’re trying to compete directly with the press sites, you’re going to find it pretty difficult for a while, until you’ve built a sizable audience or unless you have an amazing angle for your reviews. But if you’re a community site, you shouldn’t be focusing on getting early reviews or exclusive news. Sure, that’ll get the attention of viewers, but if you want to build a community for the long-term, you need to be focusing your attention more on how you can involve your community in everything that happens on your website.
Recently, on gaming blog Kotaku, the staff started a book-club-like discussion of the recently released Alan Wake. The gist of the program is that each evening players go through a single episode of the game and come back to the site the next day to have an intelligent discussion about their experience from all angles. This is, frankly, the type of thing that more community sites should be doing. The gaming press are beating you at your own game. Not only does this type of activity encourage your viwers to come back every day for the discussion, but it also gets your entire community involved in the news. I’ve been inside publishers and developers when stuff like this gets posted. When people are having those type of conversations online about your title, the article almost always gets passed around the whole studio in email. Xbox community site 360Junkies also has regular gaming sessions called “Saturday Nights LIVE.” It’s a great program that ensures their community members get together every week. It’s an Xbox LIVE version of a Tweet-Up, if you will. Events like this build a strong community around a site or forum, and require absolutely nothing from publishers.
There are a lot of ways that a publisher can reject you, but that doesn’t mean that you’re cut off at the knees. It just means you need to get more creative and focus more on leveraging your community to generate great content. If you pull it off, your community will reward you for it in the end. What programs can you start on your site that benefit your comminity without being dependent on publishers helping you out?